Saturday, 31 March 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 10

A hand pressed down on my face. My eyes flew opened and I struggled beneath the pressure. Were they here to take me? Had they finally found me? After all these years, would one request be my downfall?

“Ssh, Miss Crystal, it’s just me.”

In the dim morning light I could just make out the shape of Elise leaning over me. She removed her hand from my mouth and I sat up.

“Elise, you scared me.” I scrubbed my face with my hands. “What time is it?”

“Early. I brought you these.” Elise placed a bundle on my bed.

I pulled it towards me and opened it. Inside the cloth were real clothes. I smiled.

“Thanks, Elise. Where did you get them?”

Elise shook her head and went to stoke the fire.

I took the bundle to the dressing screen and tossed my nightgown over it. Elise sighed and I heard her muttering to herself as she walked through the room.

“I can clean things up, Elise. You don’t need to,” I said as I slipped into the pair of jeans. They fit perfectly.

“It’s my job, Miss. I don’t mind.”

Pulling the t-shirt over my head I walked out from behind the screen. I went to the wardrobe and opened it. Hidden behind the voluminous dresses that Savannah had given me was my jacket and backpack. I took them out and shook out my jacket.

“What are you going to do?” Elise asked as she made the bed.

“Going to go shoot something.” I pulled the black hoodie on and shoved my arms into my jacket. “Don’t worry, I’m only going to hit a target. I’m a good shot.”

Elise didn’t look convinced but left it alone. “And how do you propose to get out of this house without being seen?”

“Well, no one else is up. I could probably run screaming down the hall and no one would come running.” I reached into my jacket pulled out a knife.

I tested the edge with my finger. Elise bit her lip as I removed the other four knives I had hidden in my coat.

“That is a lot of knives, Miss Crystal. Do you really need that many?” She came towards me and touched the edge of my favourite blade. “Ow, it’s sharp.”

“Elise, when you live in the slums a dull blade would do you no good. Even one sharp knife only can stop one person. The more you have, the better chance you have of surviving.” I tucked them all back into their hiding places. “Where are my boots?”

Elise dug into the back of the wardrobe and pulled out the black combat boots I had gotten the year before. I sat on the bed and pushed my feet into them. Lacing up the fronts, I grinned. This was what I was meant to be. The girl ready for anything. No more dresses and pantaloons for me.

“What do you think?” I spun in front of Elise.

She shrugged. “You look dangerous.”

I laughed. “That’s the point.”

I pushed the back door opened and cringed as it squeaked. Someone had to oil the silly door. In place like this is was rather surprising that something had been allowed to get that bad. I tiptoed across the terrace, shushing Truscott as he came bounding over. He jumped around me as I walked across the yard.

The sun poked its rosy finger’s over the horizon and I paused to watch the sky turn to a sea of golds and pinks. It was going to be a beautiful day.

Something in me urged me on and I broke into a run. The wind whipped through my hair. It chilled my throat as I breathed but it felt so good I didn’t want to stop. When I finally stopped I could barely draw a breath. I bent over and sucked air into my lungs. They heaved as they tried to fill with life giving oxygen. When I could breathe almost normally I continued.

Two days ago when I had been out walking I heard the sound of horses. Dante had pointed out the path that led to their stables. It was along that path I now wandered. Somewhere there would be a place to practice.

Truscott had bounded ahead after a rabbit when I saw the place. Off the path was a log covered with lichen, the perfect targets. It was about a hundred yards from where I stood.

I called Truscott and told him to sit. He plopped down on the path and yawned. He knew what was up. I pulled off my backpack and removed the arrow and the quiver. Bending the bow I strung it and then tested it. The string made a resound twang as I let go. I grinned. It was still good.

“Alright, Truscott, let’s see if I can still do this.” I notched an arrow and raised my arm. Resting my thumb by my mouth I sighted along the arrow and released.

The arrow spend through the air and landed just beside the lichen I had aimed for.

“Shoot, forgot to test for wind.” I sucked on my finger for a moment and then held it up. The slightest breeze came from the east.

I notched again and this time allowing for the wind, released towards the log. The arrow landed directly in the centre of the lichen.

“Bulls eye,” I crowed leaning down to pet my dog. “Did you see that, Truscott? I can still do it.”

Truscott yawned again and laid his head down on the path. I laughed. He was bored. He wanted to hunt something and so did I. But today wasn’t the right time. I needed the rest of my strength back. Instead of running off into the woods I released arrow after arrow into the log.

 Within minutes the log looked like a pin cushion and all ten arrows were gone. I trudged over to the log and carefully pulled them out. I needed more if I was going to get home alive. Scanning the tree line I spotted a pile of branches. I made my way over and knelt down on the cold ground. Only the straightest sticks could be used to make my shafts and they had to be a quarter of an inch thick. I began to sort through the pile. Most were from maple trees but I found some from cherry and walnut too.

Someone was coming down the path when I stood up. I had found twelve branches that would do. I hid them behind my back as a man strode by whistling. I carefully slipped behind a tree and watched. I didn’t know who I could trust and I didn’t want everyone knowing that I was making more arrows.

The man bent over and patted Truscott. Truscott wagged his tail but made no move to follow the man. The man shrugged and continued down the path. I sighed and then made my way to where my dog lay.

“Good boy, Truscott. Come on, let’s go get breakfast.”

Monday, 26 March 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 9

Dante drew me back to the fire and I sat back in my chair. He knelt and scooped up the papers I had so carelessly thrown down.

“Dante, did you know?”

Dante sat across from me. He shook his head. “No. Not until you came here. When I read all those papers I didn’t know what to think. I still don’t.”

I propped my elbow on the arm of the chair and rested my chin in it. Staring into the fire I watched it dance to its own music. Dante was silent and Truscott snored.

“Dante, what is going on?” I slipped to the floor and dug through the pile of paper. “Here. What’s this?”

It was the strange poem. Dante read it and then raised his eyes to me.

“This is what everything is about. All the secrets, the reason you are here.”

I pulled myself back into the chair. “What do you mean?”

“About twenty years ago a man by the name of Jacobus Sanders had dream, a dream that could change this world.”

“Change? Why do we need change?” I sat up straight.

Dante bit his lip. “We need change because this world is falling apart. You know how it is in the slums. People scrounging just to live, I mean, you lived there.”

“I did. I do. And it is bad. But what can you do?”

“Not a whole lot right now. But back to Jacobus Sanders. He had this dream. In it he was walking down the beach when a man came up to him. The man said that the world was going to shatter. But there was a way to stop that. Then he spoke these words.

‘Crystal, like glass, clear and brilliant.

Destiny, an unknown future.

Together they bring an end and a beginning.

Apart all will crumble.

Your future is like glass:

One wrong move and it shatters.’

“He also said that two girls, touched by an angel, would help, would bring revolution to this shattered world.”

“Wait? Girls touched by an angel? Like me?” I fingered my strand of angel hair.

“Yes, like you. Your grandfather and Jacobus were friends. He told your grandfather about it. When your grandfather disappeared it seemed that nothing would happen. Then you were born. A girl touched by an angel.”

“But this is all things that happened to people decades older than us. Why are you involved?”

I studied this young man. He couldn’t have been that much older than me. Yet there was an air about him. It wasn’t that he was one of the Elite. He seemed pressed down with a heavy weight. Like half the cares of the world had been handed to him. He stared away into the fire. At that moment I saw that he was no different than me. He may have had all the money in the world but that didn’t make his life any easier than mine.

“Crystal, I’m part of a group called Vision of the Future. We want to help the world become a better place. Give everyone a voice.”

“What does that mean?” I really had no idea what he was going on about.

“How do I explain this?” Dante leaned back in his chair.

I leaned back in my chair and crossed my ankles. Dante stroked his chin, deep in thought.

“We want what used to be before the third world war. Back then there were no classes. Everyone used their talents to make this world a wonderful place to live. But then after the war and leading up to the fourth war some overzealous men took over ruling and things got out of hand.

“We went back to ideas from decades ago. Suddenly people without money were nobody and those with money were the best ones even if they weren’t. And what you see today is what happened.

“So, Dominique, myself and about ten other people, of all ages and classes, are working to bring back what once was.”

“What do I have to do with that?”

“We still haven’t found people to represent the poor class. We’ve been waiting to find the girls in this dream.”

“But what am I supposed to do? My family is the only one in the whole area that can even read. I’ve spent most of my life scrounging for garbage, among other things.”

Dante sat up straighter. “What other things have you done?”

I grinned. “You don’t want to know.”

“But we still have to find one more person. The other one in the dream. The man said there would be two.”

I picked up the page and studied it again. ‘Crystal, clear like glass; Destiny, an unknown future.’

No, it couldn’t be. Crystal. Destiny. It must be a coincidence. Words my mother had said many times came back to mind.

“Destiny, an unknown future. You are destined to great things.”

I shook my head and tossed the paper to the floor. This was too weird. I stood up and walked to the window. It was dark outside now. I stared into the blackness. Nothing was making sense anymore. I just wanted to go home.

“Crystal, are you okay?” Dante came to stand behind me.

I shrugged. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”


I shook my head and brushed passed him. I couldn’t tell him what I thought. It was just not plausible. I didn’t want it to be. I shivered as I headed up the stairs. It was way past time that I went home.  


The next morning I stood at the window, staring into the space beyond. My sleep had been filled with the faces of those long gone from me. People I once loved and still did. People I knew would never come back. I wouldn’t be able to help them. The dream was fading, had been for years. And they didn’t know.

“Miss, is there anything I can get you?” Elise asked from behind me.

I turned and smiled wanly. “Some proper clothes would be nice. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie or a jacket. I need to get out of here, Elise.”

Elise frowned, her smooth forehead wrinkling in puzzlement. “Why would you want to leave?”

“Because I can’t help them.” I turned back to the window. “I can’t stay here. It won’t do any good.”

“Now, Miss Crystal, don’t despair. Things will work out.”

“I wish that were true, Elise. But things can’t work out. Just help find what I need.”

“As you wish.”

The door clicked shut behind her and I sank into the window seat. Tears streamed down my face. I flicked them away. I was so sick of crying. I hadn’t cried in years and here that was all I seemed to do. I was getting soft.


Dante stood in my doorway. I sighed and turned away from him.

“Crystal, what’s the matter?”

He slowly crossed the room and stood behind me.

“What’s wrong? Everything.”

“What do you mean?” He laid a gentle hand on my shoulder and I reached up to touch his fingers.

“Look out the window, what do you see?”

“Our lawn.”

“I see perfection.” I smiled. “That’s what my life used to be. Perfect. Then it became like the world beyond your garden.”

I pointed to the buildings, the crumbled ruins beyond his place.

“How do you mean?” Dante sat beside me and took my hand in his. “Your hands are cold.”

“I’m cold all through.” I leaned against the wall and let him rub my hands in his. “When I was seven my grandfather took me away for the day. We went all over the place. I had so much fun. But when we got home, everything was wrong. Mom was crying hysterically, Dad was barely holding on. And my sister was gone. They had taken her. And they would have taken me, but I wasn’t there.”

“Who took her?”

I shrugged. “We don’t know. They never said who they were. They just came in and took her.”

“But why?”

I shook my head. I still didn’t know, but I had an idea. It only made sense now, now that I knew what I did.

“Crystal, why would they take your sister?” Dante took my chin in his hand and forced me to look at him.

The look in his blue-grey eyes made my own fill with tears. “Because she was touched by an angel.”

I reached up and fingered my strand of white hair.

“What was your sister’s name?”

“You already know,” I whispered.


“Yes.” I nodded. “Destiny. She was five. You see, the dream is dead. You only have me. You need both of me.”

Dante sighed and closed his eyes. I pulled my hands from his and tucked them under my legs. This was the end. The last time I would see Dante. I knew he would send me away now. And I wouldn’t fight it.

“Crystal, did you ever find out where they took her?” Dante was looking serious now.

“No, we never did. Dad and Grandpa tried to, but there was no sign of her.”

Dante stood up, a determined look on his face. “Don’t worry, Crystal. We’re going to find her.”

He left the room calling for Dominique. I sank back into the cushions. I wouldn’t let my hopes get up. She was gone and nothing would her back.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 8

I clung to Dante’s arm as he opened the door. As much as I hated to admit it I was still weak but I wasn’t about to let on. After being stuck in my room for five weeks I needed to get out.
Elise and Savannah had dressed me in a thick, blue, silk dress complete with pantaloons and three petticoats. The red velvet cape caressed my neck and the large hood covered my head.
“Are you ready?” Dante asked.
I laughed. “Let’s just get out there already.”
Dante took a step out onto the back terrace and I gingerly placed one foot on the snow covered stones.
I was outside.
I raised my face to the overcast sky and breathed deeply. It smelled like snow, crisp and clean.
“I should have had someone clean this off,” Dante said looking around at the snow covered terrace.
“No, no. I like it like this.” I trailed my gloved fingers over a railing. Snow drifted off and landed by my feet. “It’s perfect. Thank you.”
Dante smiled and dusted off a bench. He sat down and patted the place beside him. I shook my head. I didn’t want sit, I wanted to run.
I slowly made my way around the terrace. Empty urns, their edges softened by the snow, sat forlornly along the railing. Bare branched trees rattled softly in the breeze. I closed my eyes and held out my arms. Spinning in slow motion I revelled in the feel of the chilly air on my cheeks.
There was a bark and I opened my eyes to see Truscott racing towards me, clouds of snow rising behind him.
“Truscott! Slow down, buddy.” I stepped down onto the lawn.
Truscott skid to a stop and banged into my legs. With a jolt I found myself sitting in a drift. I laughed.
“Crystal!” Dante pounded across the patio and crouched beside me. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine.” I fondled Truscott’s ears. “Seriously, Dante, I not going to fall apart. My name may be Crystal, but I’m made out of stronger stock.”
He didn’t seemed convinced as he held his hand out to help me up. I placed my hand in his and allowed him to pull me to my feet.
He tucked my hand into the crook of his arm and led me slowly around the yard. Truscott bounded ahead. He turned and cocked his head. He barked once as if to say ‘Come on. Hurry up.’
“Can’t move any faster, boy,” I called to the brown dog. “Go play.”
With one more bark Truscott took off after a group of sparrows. I watched as the flock took to the air. They flew up, chattering, desperate to get away. Some days I felt like that. Only there was no way for me to just get up and fly.
“Dante, what do you want from me?” I studied the lines of the yard as I waited for him to answer.
“What do you mean?”
I bit my lip. “You’ve spent so much helping me get better. Surely you need something from me. You’ve treated me like one of your own. I’m not an Elite. I’m a girl from the poor of the East Slums.”
He led me to a bench and this time I sat down with him. I looked at him but he was staring into the distance. He was struggling to find an answer, I could see it in his face. I turned to the yard.
It looked unorganized but if you really studied where everything was placed you could still see a pattern. All the trees were the same distance apart. Three different groves of trees grew in squares along the bank of a small creek where Truscott was gingerly walking on ice.
I turned back to Dante.
“It’s not true.”
“What’s not true?”
Dante sighed. “How much did your grandfather tell you about his life?”
I shook my head. “Not much. He said it wasn’t worth repeating.”
“That was a lie. Well, not a lie. But his life is worth knowing. Come, I want to show you something.”
Something in his voice scared me. Truscott was still trying to walk on the ice. He came running when I called him. I wanted my trusty hound with me when Dante revealed whatever secrets he was keeping.

In his office Dante seated me in an easy chair in front of a cheery fire. I stared into the dancing flames and wondered why God had done this to me. Why He had plucked me from my life and dropped in the midst of these strangers?
Yes, I had been here five weeks, but they were still strangers to me. Only Elise seemed to understand where I came from.
In Dante’s hands was the large yellow envelope I had brought here.
I frowned. “What is it?”
“Everything you need to know.” Dante stepped back. “I’ll let you read it here. I won’t be far away.”
I watched him walk to the door.  He was stiff, like he was afraid something was about to change.
Truscott yawned and turned around three times on the rug. The flames crackled, sending sparks up the chimney. Outside, snow drifted down, landing silently on the ground.
I took a deep breath and opened the envelope. I pulled out the papers and studied the top one.
It was another envelope, smaller and older. The flap was torn and breaking. Inside were pictures. I pulled them out and fanned them out on my lap. Two young men smiled at me from the black and white image.
Another photo was of only one of them and I recognized it. My grandfather had the same picture in his room. He said it was him when he was young.
I had often wondered why he had been wearing such fancy clothes. He had told me he was playing with one of the rich boys and he had lent him some clothes for the day.
I shoved the pictures back into the envelope and picked up the next piece of paper. It was a birth certificate for Andrew Reynold St. Clair.
My grandfather’s name was Andrew Reynolds. That was my last name too. Except I never used it. We didn’t have last names in the slums. We had nick names and first names, that was it.
I pulled out the picture of my grandfather again and turned it over. In faded ink was that name again. Andrew Reynold St. Clair.
I shook my head. What had my grandfather done?
The next paper was a marriage certificate. The marriage of Andrew Reynold St. Clair to Louisa Anne Trescott.
Right behind that certificate was another one. Only instead of being on heavy, gold embossed paper it was just plain paper with plain black ink. The marriage of Andrew Reynolds to Theresa Hockens. That was my grandmother.
My brain began to pound. I closed my eyes and pressed a hand to my head. What was going on? Nothing was making sense anymore.
Near the bottom of the pile was a bunch of papers clipped together with a paper clip. I flipped through them and the tears began to flow.
“No, you didn’t. How could you? How could you?” I turned away from the words.
I didn’t even know the man anymore. How could he have lied for so long to me? Why had he found it necessary to keep this all from me?
I took a deep breath and turned back to the evidence. My grandfather was once one of the Elite. Born to Reynold and Sarah St. Clair. He had one younger brother, James St. Clair. He had married Louisa Trescott only to lose her in childbirth. The baby, a boy, had died with her.
The newspaper clippings glued to the papers had told it all. My grandfather had lost it and left his family. A few years later someone saw him in the slums. His family had tried to get him to come home but he had fallen for my grandmother, a washer woman’s daughter, and he wanted her too. But the family couldn’t accept her and he refused to come back. Instead he ahd stayed on the slums and married Theresa.
That was the last time anyone in the family ever mentioned his name. His brother had inherited the family fortune and soon drove the business into the ground. James St. Clair had been accused of embezzling money and the whole family was in ruins. James’ son, Andrew, tried to restore the family name and had finally managed to do it. And nine years ago he had moved up into the Elites with his wife and his son, Dominique.
Dominique was my second cousin. Was that why Grandpa had gone to Andrew? Because he knew that his nephew couldn’t refuse him?
But what had he wanted? I flipped through the papers trying to find the answers.
‘Crystal, like glass, clear and brilliant.
Destiny, an unknown future.
Together they bring an end and a beginning.
Apart all will crumble.
Your future is like glass:
One wrong move and it shatters.’ 
I kept finding those words. What did they mean?
In the middle of the stack was a bunch of legal documents. I couldn’t make out what half of it was saying. But some of the names were familiar. John and Quincy, Lance, Trinity and Alex. My grandfather had adopted John and named me as John and Quincy’s oldest daughter. I studied my birth certificate.
Then I shook my head.  He had written the date wrong. According to the certificate I was seventeen. One year older then the twins.
I had read enough. I shoved the papers to the floor and stood up. The windows began to rattle as the wind picked up. I made my way across the room and stared into the gathering gloom.
Tears made their way down my cheeks. I rested my head against the cold glass. Everything I had been told was a lie. I wasn’t just a girl from the slums, half of me was one of the Elite.
I turned to Dante. “How could he?”

Saturday, 10 March 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 7

Another week slowly drew to a close. Every time I opened my eyes I felt a little bit stronger. Dante and Elise became my constant companions. One as my eyes to the outside world, the other a source for this new world.
“Elise,” I said one morning about a week after that second fever.
“Yes, Miss?” Elise turned from the fire place where she was stoking the fire.
“Do you know what happened to my boots and coat?” I tried to act nonchalantly about them.
I didn’t want to appear too eager to have my weapons back in my hands. But my fingers were itching to feel the worn, wooden handles of my knives.
“I’ve kept them safe for you, Miss Crystal. My brother is quite envious of your knives.” Elise smiled as she straightened a pillow on one of the chairs.
“Your brother?” I’m curious about this maid. She hadn’t told me much about her life and I was eager to know more.
“Yes, my brother is Mr. Dante’s chauffeur.” Elise gathered the dishes and left them on the tray outside the door.
Someone else, whom I had yet to meet, would come along and pick them up.
Elise came and sat on the bed beside me. I know Dante and Savannah would frown at my camaraderie with the maid but sometimes I felt like she was the only one who knew what I was going through.
“What’s a chauffeur?” I’ve heard so many unfamiliar turns lately.
Elise smiled. “He drives Mr. Dante around in his car.”
I laughed. “They have a car and they need someone to drive it? How silly. Can’t they do it themselves?”
Elise shrugged. “Probably but then my brother would be out of a job. And we can’t afford that. What with the nine of us and Mama so ill, we need all the money we can get.”
“You have eight siblings?” I couldn’t believe it. That was the most I had ever heard of.
“Yes, I’m the second oldest. I barely know my youngest sister. I had to get a job when she was two. I miss her so.”
“Surely you have time to visit your family?” Where the Brooks tyrants? Did they keep their servants chained to their house? “You have days off, right?”
Elise patted my arm. “Of course I do. Every other Saturday is my day off, but it costs a lot of money to go back to the west side. And it’s dangerous. Even being in the Elite neighbourhood is dangerous.”
That brought me back to the words that had sparked my interest in her family.
“Why does your brother like my knives?”
“Because he hasn’t found such perfectly balanced ones in all his searching. He likes to keep one or two on himself to protect Mr. Dante or Miss Savannah when he’s driving them around.”
“And I thought the slums were the only place we had to protect ourselves like that.” I shook my head. It seemed that I knew very little of the place outside my own neighbourhood.
Elise smiled and stood up. “No, Miss Crystal. It’s dangerous everywhere in this world.”
“Elise, will you do something for me?” I grabbed her arm. “Please?”
The maid nodded.
“Bring me my coat and my boots. And my bow and arrows.”
“I don’t know, miss. Where would you keep them? Mr. Dante won’t like it if he finds them in here.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know, but I’d feel safer just knowing they were in my room. If what you say is true, then I’d like to protect myself.”
“Alright, miss. I’ll see what I can do.”
Elise made her way to the door straightening up things as she went. How she found so much to rearrange when I hadn’t been out of bed for days, was beyond me.
She paused with her hand on the door handle.
“Do you think you can find me some clothes to replace the ones I was wearing?”
The maid’s back stiffened and I knew that what I had asked her wouldn’t be easy. Even though she came from a background like mine the west slums still raised their daughters to be ladies. And ladies never wore pants.
“Please, Elise.”
She nodded and I knew I had a friend.
Smiling I sank back onto my pillows. I had accomplished two things today. I had found a way to get my belongings back and proper clothes. It was twelve in the afternoon and I was still awake.

The world outside my window had gone dark when I heard voices in the hall. Dante’s rich laugh filled the air. I smiled. When he laughed all seemed right.
Another voice answered him and I frowned. I didn’t recognize it. I had come to know the voices of this house, the soft voice of Savannah; the deep timber of Dante; the rasp of Titus, Dante’s valet; the sweet, west slums accent of Elise and the other maids; the mixed accents of the male servants. But I had never heard this voice.
Whoever this person was had the smooth, honeyed voice of a man who knew his place and his opinion and wasn’t afraid to state it. He reminded me of Bone Jones, only more cultured.
Elise had tied a blue satin dressing gown around my white nightgown and now she helped me into one of the chairs. I sank into the cushions’ embrace and helped tuck a knitted coverlet around my legs.
“Who’s with Dante?” I craned my head trying to get a glimpse of the mysterious person as they passed my opened door.
“Mr. Dominique St. Clair,” Elise replied. “He’s Miss Savannah’s fiancé.”
“Oh, he’s that one she was moaning about the other day.”
“Moaning about, Miss?” Elise carefully placed another log on the fire. A few sparks flew up the chimney. “There, that should be good for now.”
“She was in here the other day go on and on about her fiancé and how she just wished he would come home. I quit listening after about five minutes and missed his name.”
Elise laughed. Then my door opened and we both turned to face the visitors. Savannah was hanging onto the arm of a tall, dark haired man.
He was stood the same height as Dante, yet he looked bigger. I frowned. Dante was a large man, in some ways, yet beside this man he seemed smaller somehow.
“Crystal, may we come in?” Dante asked.
“You’re in already,” I muttered. Louder I said, “Yes, come on in.”
The threesome skirted my bed and joined me. Elise faded into the background and I felt lost without her.
“Crystal, I would like to introduce you to my closest friend, Dominique St. Clair. Dom, this is Crystal.” Dante stepped back and Dominique drew closer to me.
He bent over my hand and gently kissed it. I laughed a little and pulled my hand back.
“You don’t want to do that, Mr. St. Clair,” I said. “You don’t know what I’ve touched.”
Dominique laughed and sat down beside Savannah. “You are a witty one, Miss Crystal.”
“Don’t call me Miss Crystal. I’m just Crystal.”
Dominique’s green eyes sparkled. “Alright, Crystal it is. So how has my fiancé and her brother been treating you?”
“They have been very kind.” I shifted. Something about this man made me uncomfortable. He seemed to at ease in my company and I felt too comfortable with him. I studied him as he turned to answer Savannah’s whispered question. With a jolt of recognition I remembered. I’d seen this man before.
But then he was dressed in a worn suit playing on the floor of his father’s office.
“Nicky?” I said. “Is that you?”
Dominique turned to me. I pulled off the mobcap that Elise had tucked my hair up into. My strand of angel hair fell down beside my cheek.
“Crissy? What... what are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing. The last time I saw you, you were playing with that ratty dog in your father’s law office. What happened?”
Dominique shrugged. “We got money and Dad bought his way into the Elites. He represents the best of them now. But what about you? The last time I saw you, your grandfather was signing papers. And you all looked pretty well off.”
I snorted. “Until the recession. Then we lost everything.”
“Which recession?” Dominique was facing me full on now and I wondered how I could have missed it.
Of course we had only been nine the last time we were together. I didn’t think that seven years could change a person so much.
“The one that year after. I’m surprised your father managed to keep going.”
“Right after that day, we moved up in the world. And my father wouldn’t rest until he was at the top of the ladder. It killed my mother.”
“I’m sorry.” I wanted to reach out a hand and comfort him but Savannah was softly stroking his other arm.
“May I interrupt?” Dante asked.
I nodded.
“Am I to understand that you two know each other?” Dante looked me to Dominique and then back again.
“It’s been seven years, but yes we know each other,” Dominique replied.
“How?” Savannah laid off her stroking and leaned around to peer at me.
I could see the suspicion in her eyes. As if I would try to steal him from her. He obviously loved the girl.
“When we were nine Crissy and I spent many days playing together.” Dominique smiled and I grinned back. There was mischievous boy I knew.
“My grandfather was working on some legal papers and I was dragged along to many of the meetings back then. Nicky was there and he had a dog and I liked dogs, so we became friends. Then he disappeared. I went back to find you once, Nicky, but you were gone. After that Grandpa found me Truscott. I forgot about you or more likely tucked you away in the back of my mind.”
Dante leaned back in his chair. “Well, Dom, or should I call you Nicky?”
“Please, don’t,” Dominique laughed. “Crystal was the only one to get away with calling me that.”
“Then Dom, you are full of surprises. I thought I knew everything about you. But I never heard about a dog or a little girl with strange coloured hair.”
“Angel hair.” Dominique reached out and stroked the strand. “That’s we always called it, right, Crissy?”
I nodded. “It’s what my mother called it. She always claimed I was touched by an angel.”
The conversation took a lighter turn after that but I barely listened. Seeing Dominique again brought the pain of losing those I loved back from where I had pushed it down.
I didn’t know if I would ever get out of this place. Whenever I mentioned leaving Dante frowned and Savannah began simpering about the privileges of the Elite. But they were welcomed to them. I wanted my bed and Trinity curled up beside me, Robin’s light snores soothing me to sleep. Most of all I wanted Macy, to hold her, see her smile and watch as she grew.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 6

The days slipped by. Each time I awoke Dante or Elise spooned hot broth down my throat. It took all my energy to stay awake for even those few minutes.
“Dante, am I every going to be well?” I asked one day. “I’m sick of lying around.”
Dante smiled. “I think you are getting better. You’re more spirited. The doctor said that in a few days we could get you out of here and sit you in a chair by the window.”
“Can’t we do it now?” I looked eagerly towards the window. “Is it December yet?”
“Just.” Dante removed the tray from my bed. “Let’s get you tucked back in.”
I frowned, than sighed. There was no arguing with Dante. I had tried it yesterday and it hadn’t worked.
I let him lay me back down and pull the blankets up to my chin. Truscott bounded in and jumped up on the bed.
“Truscott,” I said.
I rubbed my silly dog’s ears and he licked my face.
“Down, dog,” Dante said.
Truscott sat down on the bed and stared at Dante.
“He doesn’t listen very well, does he?” Dante commented as he pulled the curtains opened farther. “Would you like me to open the window?”
“He listens to me.” I stroked Truscott’s head and he snuggled down beside me. “Please, if you think it will be alright, I’d like the window opened.”
Dante unlocked the window and managed to open it a few inches. “It seems stuck. Oh well, this will do. We don’t want you getting too cold.”
I shifted in the bed. Turning my head I closed my eyes. The cool breeze washed over my face and I drank in the fresh air.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it. Elise will be by in a while to help you bathe.”
I cracked open one eye. “Bathe? I had a bath yesterday.”
Dante frowned. “So?”
“I only take baths on Wednesdays and Sundays.” I laid back and closed my eyes.
“We’ll see about that,” Dante muttered under his breath before the door clicked shut.
I waited a few more minutes, making sure he was far away. I tossed the blankets off of me and sat up. It took less than a minute for the dizziness to pass today. Yesterday it had taken a lot longer.
My arms trembled as I pushed myself to the edge of the bed. I dangled my legs over the side of the bed. My feet dangled a good foot above the blue rug. Truscott whined as I slid off the bed. Holding onto one of the bedposts I let my legs take my wait.
I closed my eyes as a wave of dizziness swept over me. They have wanted me to take it easy but I wasn’t going for it. The sooner I was up and better the sooner I could go home.
Truscott pressed against my legs and I rested my hand on his head. Taking a step I smiled. My legs were weak but I could still walk. It took awhile but finally we made it to the window. I crawled up onto the window seat and pressed my forehead to the cool glass.
It was heavenly. I drew the dark, blue drapes closed. Alone I allowed the tears to fall.
Outside a grey sky cried with me. December was everything November was not. The warm weather we had happily accepted was gone. But instead of snow it rained, a hard, cold rain. A rain that made the world as dreary as I felt. It pelted against the glass window panes, running down to soak the stone sills and scroll work.
I ran my finger listlessly down the glass. I was weak, I knew that. I would stay here until I had my strength back. Then I would be gone, away back to where I belonged.
The drapes parted and a black nose followed by a brown muzzle appeared. Two bright, brown eyes peered at me.
“Truscott.” I pat the seat beside me and the dog jumped up beside me.
Truscott pressed his nose to my arm and I rubbed his ears. He comforted me when nothing else could.
“God,” I raised my eyes to the sky, “can you give me a hand here? Just tell me what I’m doing here. I really want to go home.”
Truscott curled beside me and began to snore. I laughed. If only I could fall asleep that fast and leave my troubles behind me. I leaned against the wall and turned back to staring out the window.
For a moment I wondered what this place would look like in the spring and summer. I shook my head. I couldn’t think like that. Before this place even saw a hint of green I would be gone.
Quincy would have had her baby by now, I was sure of it. I wondered if Macy missed me. I missed her. Her sweet smiles and the smell of little girl, all the things I loved seemed so out of reach now.
A tear rolled down my face and I wiped it away impatiently. I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. If I got depressed I’d never get out of here.
“Come on, Crystal, you can do it girl.” I gave myself a shake and straightened.
I would beat this. I was a survivor.
I pulled up the cotton and lace top I wore. There on my stomach as a bright red scar. I touched it and hissed as the pain ran through my body. Gingerly I pressed my fingers to the small of my back. More bubbled skin met my fingers. I shook my head. That was four scars from three bullets.
I hadn’t yet met the doctor that saved me. He had the habit of coming when I was sleeping. But when I did see him I would demand that he tell me how bad it was.
I shivered and rubbed my arms. Taking one last breath of the fresh air I closed the window. Too bad they didn’t open any farther. If they did I’d climb out and be on my way.
  “Miss Crystal?”
I lifted my head. Peeking between the drapes I saw Savannah standing in the doorway. Her perfect blond curls framed her face and she wore a blue dress that matched her eyes.
“Miss Crystal? Are you in here?”
I smiled to myself. Leaning back against the wall I waited.
“Dante! She’s not in here.”
I peered out to see Savannah’s skirts swish out of the room.
From somewhere in the vast house I heard Dante’s voice. “Of course she is, Savannah. Where else would she be?”
Hurried footsteps sounded in the hall and Dante’s voice echoed through my room. “Crystal, stop hiding.”
I giggled. Would he know where to find me? I wasn’t about to leave my hideaway.
“I told you she’s not in here.” Savannah sounded close to tears. “What if she left and is lying somewhere hurt even more? What will we do?”
“Savannah, stop it.”
Savannah seemed to be worry wart to me. The one time I had seen her I also knew her to be person who followed the rules to the letter.
Truscott raised his head and growled low in his throat.
“Sshh.” I patted his head.
But it was too late.
“She’s behind the drapes,” Dante said.
The drapes pulled back and I blinked up at them.
“Crystal, you should be in bed, resting.” Dante crossed his arms and glared at me.
I shrugged. “I’m resting here. It’s comfy enough.”
“You gave me such a shock,” Savannah said pressing a hand to her chest. “I swear my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I didn’t see you.”
I wasn’t repentant at all but I said it anyway, “I’m sorry. I’ll leave a note the next time I leave my bed.”
Dante laughed. I smiled up at him. His laughter was deep, the kind that came from the belly, a true laugh. Savannah just looked annoyed.
“Come on, time to get you back in bed.” Before I could protest, Dante scooped me up and swung me out of the window.
Savannah hurried to the bed and turned back the covers. Dante laid me down and she put the blankets back over me.
“Now, next time you want to move somewhere ask for help.” Dante stood over me, a frown on his face. “How did you get there anyway?”
“I walked.” I snapped my fingers and Truscott jumped to the floor and onto my bed.
“Down, dog,” Savannah said pointing at the floor.
Truscott buried his head under the blankets and ignored her.
“He’s just as stubborn as she is,” Dante muttered.
“I taught him everything he knows.” I smiled cheekily at the both of them.
“What did they teach you in the slums?” Savannah fussed with the coverlet again.
“To survive.”
I closed my eyes.
“Let’s leave her to rest.” Dante’s voice sounded softly close to my head.
Then the sound of their breathing disappeared. My door clicked shut and I was alone again.
“God,” I whispered. “Thank you for them. Be with my family until I get back. Let Macy know that I haven’t deserted her.”